Facts about dementia and Alzheimer's disease

Saturday, January 31, 2004
  • More than 162 000 Australians have a diagnosis of dementia, with perhaps as many again in the early stages of dementia
  • Australians over the age of 65 have a one in 15 chance of developing the disease
  • Among people aged 80 to 84 the rate is one in nine
  • Among those aged over 85 it is one in four
  • The disease affects mostly people in their 70s and 80s, but can appear in people who are in their 40s or younger

    Facts about dementia
  • Dementia is a general term to describe problems with memory and thinking
  • Early signs can be very subtle and not immediately obvious
  • Common symptoms are: memory loss, particularly recent memory; confusion; personality change; withdrawal; loss of ability to do everyday tasks
  • Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia
  • Other causes of dementia include: Vascular dementia; Picks disease ; Dementia with Lewy bodies; Alcohol related Korsakoff's disease; Other rare conditions

    Facts about Alzheimer's disease
  • Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, irreversible and fatal disease which attacks brain cells and kills them
  • Abnormal material called 'tangles' builds up in the centre of the brain cells, while 'plaques' accumulate outside the cells, disrupting messages and memory
  • Alzheimer's is characterised by confusion, memory loss and possible personality change
  • Subtle, early phase symptoms can include vagueness, taking longer to perform routine tasks, losing the point of a conversation or repeating oneself

Who gets dementia?
  • Dementia can happen to anyone but is not a normal part of ageing
  • It is more common over the age of 65
  • One in four people over the age of 85 have the condition
  • It can affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s

Can dementia be inherited?
This depends on the cause of the dementia. About a third of people with Alzheimer's disease have a close relative who has, or has had, dementia. However, Alzheimer's disease occurs relatively frequently in the elderly, regardless of family history.

What can be done to help?
At present there is no cure for most forms of dementia. Medications and alternative treatments have been found to relieve some of the symptoms for some people.

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